Happy birthday, Ludwig von Mises
Today, 132 years ago, Ludwig von Mises was born in Lviv. Mises has been perhaps the last great system builder in social sciences, one of the great economists of the century (see here an insightful profile by co-blogger Art Carden), a master to two generations of scholars (including Hayek, Haberler, Machlup, Kirzner, Rothbard to name only a few). He was perhaps the staunchest defender of classical liberalism in the last century. Here’s a short quote from a great book, “Nation, State, and the Economy“, that concisely expresses the essence of Misesian liberalism.
The point of departure of all liberalism lies in the thesis of the harmony of rightly understood interests of individuals, of classes, and of peoples. It rejects the basic idea of Mercantilism that the advantage of the one is the disadvantage of the other. That is a principle that may hold true for war and plunder; for economics and trade it does not hold. Therefore liberalism sees no basis for opposition between classes; therefore it is pacifist in relations between peoples. Not because it considers itself called upon to represent the special interests of the possessing classes does it advocate maintenance of private ownership of the means of production, but rather because it sees the economic order resting on private ownership as the system of production and distribution that assures the best and highest material satisfaction for all sections of the people. And just as it calls for free trade at home not out of regard for particular classes but out of regard for the welfare of all, so it demands free trade in international relations not for the sake of foreigners but for the sake of one’s own people.